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In the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Brad Keselowski took home the first race in the Challenger Round at Chicagoland then won at Talladega to survive the Contender Round. Both victories earned a spot in the Top 10 Chase moments.
Albert: 2012 series champ back to take-no-prisoners mindset RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota If Brad Keselowski clinches his second title at NASCAR's highest level this season, might his introduction as reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion draw the rarest of receptions? Polite, obligatory applause more befitting for a golf gallery. Or worse, crickets. Worse yet, boos. Two years ago at the finale of Champion's Week ceremonies in Las Vegas, Keselowski struck a gracious note in his speech before an audience of his peers, with the unscripted line "I want to be your leader" becoming the night's defining sound bite. Fast forward to 2014 and it's a much different, take-no-prisoners tone coming from the driver of the Team Penske No. 2 Ford. Keselowski may well hoist the Sprint Cup trophy by season's end, but barring a dramatic, 11th-hour mending of the fences over the next few weeks, the method will be by winning races instead of winning over friends. Still, he has to get there first -- a task made much more difficult when you're potentially perceived in the garage as Jean Girard, Russ Wheeler and Chick Hicks all rolled into one. During his first title run, Keselowski was regarded as an upstart, wielding the same brash, speak-first-and-apologize-later approach that has become especially familiar in recent weeks. As wins became more prevalent, the garage became acquainted with Keselowski's outspoken nature and, to some degree, welcomed it. At the same awards banquet in 2012, Tony Stewart offered his congratulations in prophetic words that ring just as true today: "I don't think Brad has learned to be cautious yet. Hopefully that won't bite him like it has a lot of drivers in the past. But it's refreshing. It's nice to see somebody that just speaks from the heart and isn't guarded when he speaks." Keselowski never lost his knack for candor, but last season, he lost out on the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs and won just once -- a subpar year that he attributed to straying from the aggressive mindset that had worked so well in his championship season. That mindset is back in a big way. Last Sunday's major dust-up at Texas Motor Speedway marked the second incident in the previous four races with Keselowski at the center of the conflict. In the process, he shifted four of the other seven remaining title-eligible drivers in the Chase solidly over to the "enemy" side of his ledger, a list that now includes Jeff Gordon , Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth . Hamlin figures prominently in that group, not only because of their deep-rooted antagonism from years past but their most recent flare-up post-race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last month. In a frank, unflinching appearance on NASCAR's weekly teleconference Wednesday, Hamlin flatly admitted that, "it's tough to win a championship if nobody likes you." Keselowski's current focus on the championship race is so single-minded that being well-liked is far down the priority list. He's said he's "comfortable" with upsetting the status quo and rankling the feelings of others if winning is part of the trade-off. While Keselowski has embraced wearing the black hat, Hamlin said he's come to realize the merits of discretion as his career has grown. "If you ask me do you want a championship trophy or do you want the respect of your peers, I will take the respect from my peers because that trophy, they can't put in my casket," Hamlin said. "What's the fun of a NASCAR party that nobody shows up to?" Keselowski isn't running for office, nor is he trying to win a popularity contest. With a majority of the Eliminator 8 field against him and the rest at least neutral, the Chase's delegate from Michigan has faint chance at the ballot box. What Keselowski does have is a loyal teammate in Chase driver Joey Logano , a venerable team owner in Roger Penske that supports his hard-nosed racing, and top-notch equipment. That just might be enough. The jury's still out on whether Keselowski reverses course and makes heartfelt apologies for his rivals' ruffled feathers. Saying "I'm sorry" is a lot easier to stomach when you're sitting at the awards gala's head table, but it's also a lot easier to hear over the sound of crickets. With two races left, expect more chirping of a different sort. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Late caution allows veteran to pass Kyle Busch for victory RELATED: Race results " Series standings AVONDALE, Ariz. - Brad Keselowski took advantage of a late-race caution to edge Kyle Busch for a Nationwide Series victory at Phoenix International Raceway , but Chase Elliott was the day's big winner at Saturday's DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans . Elliott, the 18-year-old son of 1988 Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott , finished fifth to clinch the NASCAR Nationwide Series title, becoming the first rookie to accomplish the feat. The Elliott family joined the Pettys, Pearsons, Jarretts and Earnhardts in becoming families with father-son national touring series champions. Elliott, who won races at Texas, Darlington and Chicagoland this season, did what he needed to, finishing ahead of JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith , who entered the race 48 points behind Elliott in the series standings and ran 10th. Elliott said he wasn't sure how to celebrate his series triumph. "I wasn't sure if it was OK to do a burnout lap or not," he said. "But I did one anyway because I was too excited not to. "I never would have even believed this was in my future. At the beginning of this season I had only run a couple of truck races. I feel lot of this is just due to the group of guys I was able to work with. Those guys were bringing me super-fast cars every week." Elliott's NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet did what Busch's Toyota could not do -- survive a green-white-checkered finish after Alex Bowman was slow on the track, bringing out a race-changing caution flag with slightly more than a lap to go. To that point, Busch had been dominant, seemingly on his way to his eighth win in 25 starts this season by leading 187 of the race's 206 laps. But Keselowski had other ideas, swooping to the inside and driving past Busch in Turn 1 of the final lap to prevent Busch from winning his fourth consecutive Nationwide start at Phoenix. "We didn't give up," Keselowski said. "Kyle was really fast – probably a 10th (of a second) or two faster than everybody. Then, that yellow came out and I really don't know what happened. I think we grabbed a gear and he slipped. "It was a little bit surreal. I really didn't even know the race was over. We were low on gas in that whole (end-of-race) situation." Busch was similarly at a loss for words. "The Monster Energy Camry was faster than everyone else – just not at the right time," said Busch, who said he knew he was in trouble when Keselowski's car "cut better than mine in Turns 3 and 4. "I tried to let him go into (Turn) 1 and cut back underneath, but my (car) wouldn't turn," Busch said. "(Right there) his stuff doesn't turn but it still turned better than ours 'cuz he still got me." Neither Keselowski nor Busch are eligible for the series title because they are full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers. For much of the race, Smith appeared primed to put his teammate's title hopes on hold. But Smith struggled after leaving the pits with 29 laps to go after taking left side tires on a yellow-flag pit stop. Elliott leaped from ninth to sixth in the running order and held serve the rest of the way. Busch took fresh tires during that same caution and restarted fifth. The strategy seemed to pay off as he easily got around Keselowski , Elliott Sadler and Bowman, each of whom elected to forego the pits on that final stop. But Keselowski made it happen in the final two laps of his Nationwide Series campaign. "We have a great team," said Keselowski , who did not finish worse than fourth in any of his 10 Nationwide starts this season. "I'm proud to be a part of it. It's been a phenomenal year and I'm going to remember this one for a long time." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Team Penske driver will do what he can to help Logano win title RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Brad Keselowski enters the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale without any playoff pressure. What's yet to be seen is if he also lacks on-track adversaries. Even as the sport's biggest feather-ruffler during this year's new-look Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason, Keselowski said he's not concerned about any retribution for his aggressive nature -- especially since the tensions of competing for a championship have been loosened. "I don't feel I have anything to worry about," Keselowski said Thursday at Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of the Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN). "I mean, payback for what? If payback for anything is racing the way I race, then I don’t really consider that payback. I consider that hard racing, and I support that." Keselowski was at the center of two post-race conflicts during the Chase, one involving Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin at Charlotte in October and another featuring Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick and multiple pit crews at Texas. Throughout it all, Keselowski remained unapologetic for his no-nonsense style of racing. Keselowski failed to advance past the Eliminator Round, the final three-race bracket that trimmed the title-eligible field from eight to its final four. While his hopes for a second championship at NASCAR's highest level are gone, he still has concrete goals for Homestead -- padding his series-best victory total in 2014 to seven and trying to assist Team Penske teammate Joey Logano in his quest for his first Sprint Cup crown. "I'll do anything I can to help Joey within the realms of what we define as fair play," Keselowski said. "I don't know what those things are going to be. You never know until they're right in front of you." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Watch the season finale: 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2) RELATED: Full lineup His Team Penske teammate had been faster Friday, but Brad Keselowski sped to the Coors Light Pole Award during group qualifying Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Keselowski's speed of 166.384 mph puts him on the pole for the Ford EcoBoost 300 . It's Keselowski's fifth series pole of the season and 19th of his career. Ryan Blaney, in the No. 12 Ford, had previously paced both Friday practice sessions and was fastest in the second round of group qualifying. He will line up fifth. Kyle Larson qualified second at 166.353 mph, with Matt Kenseth (166.006 mph) third and Elliott Sadler (165.827 mph) fourth. Chase Elliott, who locked up the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship last week, will start 14th. He finished 24th in the opening round and was the last car to advance in group qualifying. Elliott's JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith , who is second in the standings, will start 15th. Smith has a 13-point lead over Brian Scott in the battle to finish second in the final standings. Derrike Cope, Ryan Ellis , Johnny Jackson, Kevin Lepage and Martin Roy did not qualify. The Ford EcoBoost 300 is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday and will be televised on ESPN2.
Keselowski : 'I feel pretty good about the actions I've taken'
Brad Keselowski celebrates his sixth win of 2014 in the Nationwide Series at Phoenix International Raceway.
Brad Keselowski talks about winning in his last Nationwide start of the season.
Brad Keselowski reacts to the criticism following his post-race incident at Texas.